Birthday Portrait, Son

Valerie Bacharach


The therapist’s office. Pale blue couch, two brass lamps, chair upholstered in fabric the color of old snow. My husband and I wait for our son, an opioid addict living in a run-down motel. We bring him food and cigarettes, put gas in his car, stroke his hair, his arm, remember him newborn, innocent. Today is his 26th birthday. A cake sits on the coffee table, white icing, Happy Birthday Nathan in blue. A grocery store cake, cheap and too sweet. In nine days he will be dead. But now we wait in the therapist’s office, this woman who believes his words, his fallen-angel smile. The room seems to give off sparks, like static electricity, each inhale/exhale sears. My husband holds my hand too tightly, his eyes bereft, while the therapist natters on, says he told her he is clean, and the door opens, in he walks, this son we love, our love breaking us, shattering our bones as we strain to see our son hidden beneath our son.


Valerie Bacharach’s writing has appeared or will appear in:, Vox Populi, The Blue Mountain Review, EcoTheo Review, On the Seawall,. Minyon Magazine, and One Art. Her chapbook, Fireweed, was published in August 2018 by Main Street Rag. Her chapbook Ghost-Mother was published by Finishing Line Press in July, 2021. She has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize.



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